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Frontlines

Never before have investors known less about what their company is up to.
Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 2000

as chairman of the American Gas Association and (surprise!) chairman of the board of trustees of the North American Electric Reliability Council. Lately he has been crisscrossing the country, giving a stump speech about how real customer choice in energy will arrive only when fuel cells come on the market. That will give customers the ultimate utility choice: the choice not to buy.

That recalls a story I heard from Dan Fessler, one of the authors of the LeBoeuf, Lamb client letter.

Fessler says that when he served on the California PUC, he rented an apartment carved out of an old mansion off of Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Down in the basement, alongside the old coal furnace, was a panel in the wall with a series of switches installed at or before the turn of the century. Each switch at one time was connected to a separate electric distribution company. The homeowner could quite literally choose his electric supplier, flitting from one supplier to another at the flick of a switch.

He said that during the negotiations at the PUC over electric restructuring, he used to invite the consultants, lawyers, and utility executives down into the basement, show them the switches on the wall and ask, "Is this what you mean by customer choice?"

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